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Article: What Is A Flatten PDF File And How To Do It?

What Is A Flatten PDF File And How To Do It?

The printing world is pretty complex when you dive deep into it. Even for those who are acquainted with the business, they might don't understand some of the terms in it. One of them is the flatten PDF extension. Most likely, people only know the general term of using PDF as an alternative to printing documents. However, the term gives a more distinct difference. 

What is it? Is it different from the custom PDF? Flatten PDF file is not a new term or trend in the printing world. In many cases, the file extension can cover more than just text documents. It works with graphic editor programs such as InDesign or Photoshop. That is why a lot of printers or printing businesses prefer the document. Why so? Here is the information and answer.  


What Is Flatenned Pdf?

Let's start with the definition itself. Before you know how to merge PDF file, you will need to know what it is. Why? Because the file extension is not the normal PDF. It has more than just having a hardly editable document. The extension did its best in providing non-editable text to protect all of the content. 

That is why many important papers, documents, or files on the internet are available in the said format. If you are new to it, you can look at the save file from the text editor program. You will likely find a lot of saving options. In here, you will find the regular document saving option under Docx extension, regular PDF, and also the flatten PDF export option. 

To make it easier to understand, the term ``flatten file" in PDF refers to its ability to merge every separated element in the file as one. No matter if it is a text, graphic, chart, or any other element, everything will be compressed into one single element. It fuses everything into one, so your printer or printing process can go well and faster. 

The flatten PDF file works by changing almost all of the components into one non-editable part. If you use the normal version, you can still add some changes through a specific program. It is most doable through a PDF reader or sort of program. When you use the flatten version, you can't do anything with the content, even a single highlight on specific information. 

So, how does it work? The option makes all of the content of the annotation into a native text. Your reader will not detect any kind of text, font, or type in it. At the same time, all of the interactive elements such as text boxes, drop-down lists, checkboxes, radio buttons, or anything else will no longer work. They will turn into flattened images in the file. 

Flatten PDF also has the power to put all of the multiple layers of text, page number, images, and header style into a single layer. So, everything in the document will become one flat element. No editing or text detection is available. Isn't it a bad thing? For a formal, confidential, or important document, the flatten aspect helps secure credibility and avoid plagiarism. 

Commonly, the original author or the PDF file owner needs to keep the working version. In other words, the editable or the original MS. Words document. It is vital since no one can do or undo the flattened version. It will help people to work around copyright and prevent any unlawful doing. 


How To Flatten A Pdf File? 

If you ever wonder how to make the file extension, the answer is fairly easy. Almost all of the word or text editor programs have the export options to make a flattened PDF file. You can also flatten a PDF file through an online site or use converters. Regardless of what you want to choose, here are some of the easy to do step by step methods using Adobe Acrobat you can try on. 

1. Make A Backup Save 

Adobe Acrobat is one of the old yet still powerful programs to work around PDF files. In the case of flattening PDF, the program gives you quite a lot of previews and thorough settings. So, you can get the best outcome. But before you start converting and flattening the media, you need to create a backup of your original work. 

As said in the previous point, you have to ensure you got the backup document, so you get the chance to edit if needed. It is because the nature of the flatten file will not allow the reader to make any further edits. No matter how small or necessary it is. You also cannot turn back the version into the normal PDF document. So, be careful. 

2. Doing Flattener Preview 

If you are sure, you got the backup, open the original version using the program. After that, you will go to the flattener preview to make all of the needed adjustments. It is important since some of the elements might opt out from the default system setting. So, you need to ensure all of the information is visible and flattened. 

The first thing that you need to do is to go to the Advanced option. It is located on the upper menu bar. After you click it, choose the print production menu for further detail. The next pop-up information and menu are where you need to find the flattener preview option. It will provide you with thorough information and settings about the flatten PDF file. 


3. Adjusting The Vector Or Raster Balance 

In the new pop-up window, you need to adjust the raster or vector balance. It is a vital point to help make your flatten work have better readability. So, don't skip this part. At the same time, it also works as a setting to decide which objects to keep in the vector output upon the flatten document output. Your setting will affect the conversion performance.  

The point is that the more vectors in the flatten document, the longer time it will take. It is also affecting the memory of your device. That is why you can choose rasterization to lighten up the process. The good news is that the program provides a setting scale from 0-100. It indicates the number of vector elements in the flattened PDF file. 

In the lowest number or scale, it means the program will compress every object on the page. It includes text, graphics, or even transparent objects. Thus, it has no vector object in the flattened PDF. It works faster and helps your printing process faster. However, you also have no editing ability at all. 

Meanwhile, the 1-99 scale will refer to the degree of your flatten process. The scale counts the number based on the transparency of the object. It counts the number of objects, paths, types, or the number of overlapping articles. 

However, in the higher number or 100 percent, the flatten process will try to keep all of the objects in their original state. In other words, they will not rasterize everything. It makes the flatten process work harder since every vector is kept as it is. Even though it takes more time, the complexity and the final output are the best ones.  

Considering the flatten PDF file converting process and the output, you have to determine the best scale you need. It is considered one of the most vital steps in the process. You can reflect your design and the usage to ensure the flatten process will be suitable. So, you can get the best outcome or work with the version.


4. Add Check On All Text To Outline 

For more copyright-conscious or confidential data, you can avoid copy and pasting using text to outline options. Just as the name says, the setting refers to its function that transforms every piece of text into an outline. So, the output will give an image-like content. The reader cannot select, highlight, block, or copy-paste the content. 

If you want to enable the setting, the setting is located under the gradient and Mesh resolution scale. The default flatten setting is unchecked, so you can check it to ensure everything is flattened. Once you enable the setting, it also affects the printing outcome. The content and text will appear with the same weight.  

5. Uncheck Clip Complex Regions 

If you want to avoid missing information or sections in the flatten document, ensure you deselect one specific setting. The option is Clip Complex Regions. It is a setting that only appears if you add the vector & raster balance in step 3. The file setting will help you take control of how the converter analyses the complexity regions.  

In other words, the setting itself will determine the clipping paths around the portion of the transparent design. It can help you get a more detailed outcome. But, it can also miss some of the complex regions. Thus the outcome might omit some elements. If you want to avoid it, ensure you deselect or uncheck the flatten PDF file setting.  

6. Apply The Changes 

Up to this step, it means you are ready with all of the settings. You can check one more time all of the adjustments before applying the changes. If you are sure, you did everything and have the backup, choose to Apply on the bottom. It will compress all of the components of your PDF. After that, close the flattener preview box, and you can start to use the non-interactive PDF file.  


Why Do You Need Flat Pdf

If you see how complex the process is on how to make one and its non-interactive nature, why do people need it? It is safe to say that file extension is pretty common in public. However, it is also unnecessary for the general public. It most likely goes for a more distinguished work or document that needs to defend its copyright. But there are also reasons for it. 

1. Ensure Smooth Printing Process 

One of the reasons why some people bring the file extension is to make a smooth printing process. The unique point goes to the fact that PDF is not only available for text documents. It also works with many other programs, including Photoshop or InDesign. The complexity of color, layers, objects, and elements makes the printing process take a longer time. 

However, when everything is under the flattened PDF file, it will boost the printing process. How so? It is because the Portable Document Format is one of a worldwide file format. It is acceptable and works with many print providers. So, the file will provide all of the information needed and ensure everything goes well in the printing process. 

Another good point is how the flattened PDF can ensure that every element in the file will appear in the print outcome. It is particularly vital for a graphic document that has layers and varying components. Flatten option will ensure every visual element goes in the print. That is why you can find the flattened PDF is pretty popular for book format.  


2. Consistent And Unchanging File Format 

If you ever wonder why people use PDF rather than the original file when printing, the reason goes to the universal format. You need to underline that original work such as words, photoshop, or others might change its format based on the device. It happens a lot, and it can make the file look messy. It is especially true if the different device does not have the font or any other element. 

That is why PDF is the solution. It helps lock any kind of setting in your work. Thus, you can move from one device to another without fear of everything going south. It also locks the fillable form field. If you consider this flatten setting, it will help avoid any misconduct. The best example is filling the fillable form fields, which lead to PDF print misuses or copyright issues. 


3. Improve The Usability 

A unique benefit of using a flattened PDF file is the improved usability. Surprisingly the normal file can also appear wear and tear. When the not-flatten PDF is overly used and shared, the details and the work will start getting off-spec. It can make the application freeze, crash, and also unreadable. Thus, it helps increase the render and also usability. 


4. Increase Readability In Many Readers

One of the functions of doing flatten setting is to make annotation readable. If you pay more attention to the file extension, the original one will likely stay loyal to a specific program. There is a high chance that the file is unreadable or unavailable in different applications. If you use a flattened PDF, it will work for other readers. 


How To Know If Your Pdf Is Flatten Or Not 

Since many people are starting to pay attention to copyright and plagiarism, you will likely find a lot of the said file extensions in public. But, unfortunately, it is hard to distinguish the file only from the extension. Both flatten or not, have the same extension. That is why many people start to ask how to distinguish them. 

The best answer and the way to see it is by selecting or highlighting the text. You can open the file through any kind of PDF reader program. After that, try to select some of the text in the document. If the program eventually selects the text and copies it as a text, it means it is not flattened yet. To put it bluntly, you can block or copy and paste it. 

However, if the selection did not recognize any text, it means you got a flattened PDF file. It also works the same with highlights. The highlight method is easier to do since the function will not be available in the PDF reader did not find any text in the file. It will avoid any kind of selection, highlight, or any type of edit in the file. 


The Pros Of Flatten Pdf

Long story short, the flatten PDF is one of the best file extensions for any use. The non-interactive form makes everything simple and ensures every device or source can generate the file easily. It is a great solution to avoid any copyright crime, copy-paste, or plagiarism. The non-interactive data also help boost the printing process, usability, and versatility.   


The Cons Of Flatten Pdf

Since it does not allow any editing, users might get frustrated with making a paperless copy. It also has no interactive file elements, which makes the usage pretty much one-sided. The form, checkboxes, or text boxes are unavailable. Thus, the editor or user needs to make a manual adjustment or print the flattened PDF file to make changes. Once flattened, you cannot undo it. 



When one wants to get the best out of its printing quality, PDF is one of the best solutions to take. The flatten term itself refers to extension type. It allows every element in the document to be discoverable by your printing machine. The graphic, text, transparency, setting, or anything will go permanent. That is why the file will provide a smoother printing process.

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